As the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. The Torah teaches that this is a serious character flaw that must be addressed.
This week’s Torah portion is Chukat (Numbers 19:1 – 22:1). Among the many especially interesting events in the reading is the death of Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron.
Not only was Miriam a great prophetess and leader to the Jewish women, but it was in her merit that the Jewish people had a portable well throughout their 40 years of wandering in the desert. The well gave them an overflowing supply of fresh, cold water.
However, when Miriam died, so did the well – it disappeared. The people were left, at least for the time being, without water.
The question is asked: Why did the well cease upon Miriam’s death? Why could there not have been a well in her merit after she died, just as while she was alive? Were her merits insufficient to continue providing the nation with water after she passed on?
When the Torah reports the death of Miriam, it simply states that she died and was buried. There is no mention of an elaborate funeral or moving eulogies. On the other hand, when Aaron died (also in this week’s Torah portion), the nation mourning bitterly. So, too, in the chapter where Moses dies, at the end of the Torah, we are told that the people mourned for him. But for Miriam, no such description! Why is that?
It is explained that the Jewish people were not particularly moved by the death of Miriam. Sure, they took care of the body, but not much else. It was clear that the Jewish people did not properly appreciate Miriam and her profound contribution, and they failed to appreciate the fact that their constant water supply was directly and solely due to her. No mention was made of eulogies or mourning, in contrast to the Torah’s accounts of the deaths of Aaron and Moses, where it is explicitly mentioned that the nation wept for the loss of their leader. Yet the people did not properly eulogize or mourn her. As such, God decided to send the people a wake-up call, and He took away the well.
This episode teaches the importance of appreciating everything and everyone we have while we have them. Be sure that you realize all the blessings God sends you throughout your lifetime: health, a spouse, children, sight, a job, and everything else He’s given you. Otherwise, we run the risk of being given a “wake-up call” ourselves!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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